Tag Archives: Smithsonian American Indian Heritage Month

SHM: Native American Heritage Month and “Behind the Scenes”

November is Native American Heritage Month. This is a hodgepodge post of … the update, information, etc. I’ll try to keep it upbeat.

One interesting thing I saw and will hopefully remember to follow is this:

The Cherokee Nation says it has a right to a congressional delegate. Now it wants Congress to fulfill its promise.

I saw on twitter that a congressional representative had been selected – we’ll see what the legislative body does. I don’t know if it’s more prevalent, or my timeline, or what, but I’m seeing more and more from Native/First Nations people and I’m glad. The US (and various other countries) have a lot to apologize for, and make up for. 

Compounded by the attitude of this current administration and probably the less I say here the better.

Anyway, I had at least one post lined up but the author has gone MIA – so if you or anyone would like to write a guest post for the month I’d be very very happy to have you. If you don’t know, the Smithsonian Heritage Months – Black History, Women’s History, Asian Pacific American Heritage, Pride, Latinx Heritage, and Native/First Nation Heritage Months are what we try to celebrate here at ALBTALBS. It used to be “limited” to USians who fall under the umbrella category, then to anyone who fell under the umbrella category, and last year or so I opened it to ANYONE who wanted to write a thing. 

We do have a few Native American romance authors out there, and you can see guest posts from years past in the archives

We could probably do with some tag clean up/better tagging but … 🤷🏻‍♀️ this is a money pit pet project, so you get what you see. 😛 Truly though – thanks for sticking with us <3

Oh! And – if you’re interested in more information and education, personally I’ve been checking tweets Rebecca Nagle’s timeline.

Lastly if you or anyone would like to write a guest post for any of the Smithsonian Heritage Months in 2020, or if you’d like to step up and shout out own voices individuals in the community and run the celebrations for any month … please. Do – I’d love to have you. Let’s talk.

SNAHM Guest: Cynthia Eden

Hi friends! Today we have the lovely Cynthia Eden guesting with us. As she says – November is winding down, and I know the rush is starting for holiday madness, but I hope we all take a minute and reflect. I love that Cynthia has such a rich background, but I think all of us can take a look back. I hope you’ll all chime in – especially since Cynthia is so beautiful and adorable. Seriously – you want to hate her cuz she’s basically so perfect but you can’t because she’s so nice. XD

Anyway, here is what Cynthia had to say.

Memories In A Box

Hi, everyone! It is such a pleasure to be here with you—a huge thanks to Limecello for inviting me over! When I was growing up, one of my very favorite things to do was to pull out the old box of pictures that my mom kept in the bottom of her closet (yes, these were the non-digital days!). In that magical box, my mother kept pictures of her relatives and my father’s relatives. They were grainy, faded photographs. The edges had turned nearly white because they had been touched so many times over the years. Continue reading

Happy Day of Thanks!

So I’ve realized that “Thanksgiving” is … not exactly the greatest most authentic holiday, not just because of the obvious consumerism, but also because it trivializes and appropriates Native American … well everything. There’s a blog post from the National Museum of the American Indian that says it much better, from someone who has much more right than I do to speak on the subject. It’s written by “Dennis W. Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian) is a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and San Juan Pueblo Winter Clan and a descendeant of Sitting Bear and No Retreat, both principal war chiefs of the Kiowas. Dennis works as a writer and cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C..” I hope you’ll read what he wrote. I had to include his credentials because … you did you read them?!

Anyway – here’s my otherwise awful contribution. I wanted it to look like kidart – so … heh I think the words are much worse than the image. Regardless I hope you all had a lovely holiday, ate lots of delicious food, and get all the deals your heart hopes for. And if you have a bit extra to buy me a gift … well that’s just gravy. 😉

SNAHM Guest: Pamela Clare

Hi friends! Time flies, yes? Today we have Pamela Clare is visiting with us today, and I’m so excited to have her share. I don’t know if you’ve ever read her I-Team stories, but if not, you really have to, and especially don’t skip book 1 – Extreme Exposure – which is one of my favorites. Anyway, what a timely post, and lovely yet painful – like so much of Native American history.

Naked EdgeAs a writer of Native descent, I’ve tried to cover Native issues in ways that make them accessible to the outside world. As a reporter, I spent years traveling back and forth to the Navajo and Lakota reservations covering a range of issues from forced relocations to the struggles of traditional native people to hold onto their culture and languages. As a fiction writer, I put my years of reporting on these topics into Naked Edge (I-Team #4). Continue reading

SNAHM Guest: Dabney Grinnan

Hi friends! So – it’s Smithsonian Native American Heritage Month and I’ve been extremely remiss in my posting I know, but we’re working on it. What I love about the Heritage Months is different voices and perspectives. Both what we might expect to be usual as well as the ~Unusual ones. I roped Dabney into writing a post for me based on a conversation we had about names – which led to this little tidbit about her. I hope you all give her a warm welcome.

When I was in kindergarten my grandmother, Pocahontas, came to my school and gave a presentation about our famous ancestor. I still have the newspaper article about my grandmother’s visit—it is, I suspect, the first time I was ever quoted by a reporter. When asked how I felt about “being descended” from the Indian princess, I shared I didn’t like it when my friends teased me about it and I was very glad I wasn’t named for her. Continue reading

SAIHM Feature: Dee Tenorio

Hello my friends! To close out my year of Smithsonian Heritage Month posts, we’ve got Dee Tenorio!!! You might think “haven’t we seen her before for this?” And yes! You have! Which is kinda cool to my mind, right? Extra double heritage! 😀 Please give Dee a warm welcome!

When Indians Feast…

ConvictedI’m an Indian—Chumash, Apache and a wee bit of Maidu, though nowadays, everyone just calls me Native American—so as you can imagine, that makes Thanksgiving a little complicated. It’s hard to celebrate a day that is universally recognized as the day that sealed the fate of my people. As a kid, the story of saving the pilgrims was told less as a unity tale and more of a cautionary one: no good deed goes unpunished. You gotta be careful who you help and all that. It’s understandable, of course, that the elder Indians wanted us to learn from what was considered the mistakes of the past. There wasn’t many of us left and lets face it, historically Indians had a habit of believing what they were told and then getting burned for it…literally.

So, let’s go ahead and picture young Dee trying to reconcile her culture with today’s society. Teachers didn’t like it when I protested wearing a paper pilgrim hat in second grade. They were less happy that I felt making a paper headband with two feathers stapled on was a racial stereotype and that a girl wearing a full on headdress was not only wrong but bordering on blasphemous. No, I could not bring up the small pox or that the pilgrims eventually turned on the Indians who saved them. We were supposed to think on the importance of the one day they came together in peace and harmony.

But it wasn’t that simple for me. The whole time, the lessons in my head fought with what was in front of me. Thanksgiving is bad….juicy turkey. Thanksgiving is bad….cute turkey parade! Thanksgiving is bad….smells so goooooooooood! Thanksgiving is bad….two days off school!

Four Weddings and a Fiasco: Wedding WishesClearly, a compromise had to be made.

Thankfully, Mom had the answer…she always does. Thus, our family created “Turkey Day”. It’s not thanksgiving to us, it’s the day we eat a hell of a lot of inexpensive turkey, watch a ton of movies and pretty much don’t move except to get more pie. Sure, it’s pretty much what everyone else does, but the root of it doesn’t feel like betrayal to our people this way. It’s about being together, pooling our resources so all of us have more than enough to eat and laughing together for hours on end. It’s how my family celebrates that we’re still here. It’s also how we plot surviving Christmas, but that’s another story…

Thank you, Dee, for this post. I think it brings up a lot of issues people just gloss over, or don’t even know (remember?) – especially with how this holiday has turned to consumerism. A good reminder to think of others, and reflect.

It’s been a long year of many unplanned things. I started working on Smithsonian Heritage Month features in 2012, and I never imagined it’d turn out like this. I’m glad I went on this journey of exploration and I’m thankful you were all with me on it. Forward and such!


Hello my friends! So, today is Thanksgiving. I’m sharing a video from The History Channel with you.

Thanksgiving is a nice time of year for people to reflect, and spend time with their loved ones. To say what they’re grateful for, and what is good in their lives.

This year, I’m also celebrating American Indian/Native American Heritage Month so I feel like I’d be remiss if I just posted a picture of pie topped with whipped cream. (Which I considered – cuz that I could do, as opposed to a kid turkey hand craft thing.)

I think this is important to consider too, from National Geographic Kids! (I feel like it would’ve been important if we had been taught this too…)

Native Americans and Thanksgiving

The peace between the Native Americans and settlers lasted for only a generation. The Wampanoag people do not share in the popular reverence for the traditional New England Thanksgiving. For them, the holiday is a reminder of betrayal and bloodshed. Since 1970, many native people have gathered at the statue of Massasoit in Plymouth, Massachusetts each Thanksgiving Day to remember their ancestors and the strength of the Wampanoag.

So, I hope you have a lovely holiday. I also hope you consider a little bit of the history too. Be well. <3

SAIHM Feature: Alex Powell

Hello my dears! Today we have a really thought provoking post from Alex Powell, who is another first time guest to ALBTALBS! I really hope you’ll read it and think about what she says.

Rangers Over RegulusHello, my name is Alex, and I’m Limecello’s guest for Smithonian American Indian Heritage Month.

I’ll start off by saying that I’m First Nations, which is what we call Native American in Canada. My people live in the Cariboo Central Interior of British Columbia. My birth mother is from the Saik’uz band of the Carrier nation, also called the Stoney Creek band.

You might have heard of it, perhaps not. There was a biographical book written about one of the people from my band called Stoney Creek Woman: The Story of Mary John that was quite famous in Canada for a few years, when I was young.

I only recently found this out, because I was adopted at birth by the people I now know as my parents, both of whom have British backgrounds.

It’s not uncommon for First Nations people to be disconnected from their culture here. The marks left on the collective psyche of my people by the Indian Residential Schools are still affecting us. Many people tell us that we should simply “get over” it, as if it were a high school break-up instead of over 100 years of my people’s culture being systematically destroyed.

And it wasn’t destroyed by burning our books, for we had none. And it wasn’t destroyed by burning down our villages either. It was done by taking our children from us and abusing them until they didn’t remember how to speak their own language or the stories passed down that existed only in memory.

“Get over it,” as if it’s ancient history, and we should just move on.

The last Indian Residential School in Canada closed in 1996. I was seven.

Across BordersMy birth mother, whoever she was, was an alcoholic, trying to drown out the memories of physcial and sexual abuse, of her classmates dying from tuberculosis, of being forced to forget her own culture and assimilate.

I worked at a law office for a while, when I was younger. The lawyer I worked for was working for First Nations people who had been at those schools, to try and get some restitution from the government for what was done to them. Most of them couldn’t get through their statements without crying, leaving the office with red eyes and tear-stained faces.

All the money in the world could not fix this, could not make them forget the abuse and torture they were put through, the culture and language lost to them.

I myself speak English perfectly. I also speak French and Japanese. I don’t speak any of the Carrier language, which is considered endangered, as so few people speak it now.

I’m telling you all this because history would like to forget the things that Canada has done, just as it likes to forget the Chinese head tax and the Japanese internment camps. It remembers the Underground railroad well enough, as if this will make up for the hurt their country has caused.

Currently, there is an inquest going on in Canada, trying to discover why so many First Nations women go missing and turn up murdered. There are also camps up all over Wet’suwet’en nation to combat companies that want to put oil pipelines through their land.

Rocking HardI’m telling you this because people like to call us dirty, and lazy, and stereotype us with drug and alcohol abuse and prostitution. They call us “Native Americans” as if we are all one people, rather than an extremely diverse group of nations. I am not the same as the Ojibwe in the east, or the Apache in the south. I’m not Blackfoot or Cree from the plains, and I’m not Inuit from the north.

I’m Carrier. My people built pit-houses to survive the harsh Canadian winter, and food caches to keep away wild animals from our food. We didn’t wear war bonnets like the tribes from the plains, or build longhouses like the coastal tribes.

I’m telling you this because when people write about us, I want them to know the truth, as harsh as it is.

I also want you to know, that we’re not lazy or dirty, and we’re not all substance abusers, and our women are not all prostitutes.

I’m a published author, I have a degree in English, and I’m applying for an MFA at UBC.

I have friends from all over the country that are doing just fine, apart from having to deal with micro-aggressions and racism. We’re going to university, we have jobs, and we are still fighting to be recognized when most people would rather forget us and put us in museums, as if we were ancient history. We’re rediscovering our own culture like outsiders.

Not all our stories are tragic, but you have to remember our history.

I’m a writer, and many of my peers want to write about Native American characters. They always ask me what they should be careful of, because there is a huge different between a well-rounded character with a developed backstory and a stereotype.

The noble savage is a stereotype.

The sexy savage is also a stereotype.

No one should let ignorance stop them from writing a well-rounded character with a First Nation’s background. All one has to do is ask. Ask about our history, and what our culture is currently like. Do research and interviews with people who are First Nations.

There are not very many First Nations characters in mainstream media today. The ones that do appear follow the well-known stereotypes or are played by white people.

I want to change that. It’s the reason I became a writer to begin with, to bring characters to life that are from different walks of life than most characters in the spotlight of mainstream media. And I’ll start off by telling you a story. My story.

I am Alex, and I’m Carrier.

That’s my story. Not all the story, of course, but it’s a start.

Thank you so much for sharing, Alex. My heart breaks for all the wrongs and indignities that have been put on so many innocent people.

SAIHM Feature: Sharon Sala

You guys!!! I am beyond pleased to welcome Sharon Sala to ALBTALBS!!! American Indian/Native American Heritage Month is still ongoing, and I’m really excited about this post. Probably you should have a few tissues handy. I’m just warning you.



White MountainMy paternal great-grandmother, Francis Walker Smith, was three-quarter Cherokee. My maternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Cooper, was part Cree, and yet all of their children grew up without much attention to their ethnicity, mostly because of the white men they married.


Sylvester (Vester), one of Francis’ sons, married Kathryn (Katie), one of Elizabeth’s daughters. My daddy was next to the oldest of six sons born to Vester and Katie. Nearly all of the babies in that family were born with a head full of black hair so thick it stuck up like grass. They had pretty skin that turned a warm brown in the summer, although most of them had Katie’s sky-blue eyes. And so they grew, six fine young men living off the land, becoming fine hunters and fishermen, as was the way of their ancestors.


The grandmothers who had been raised in the ways of their people died without passing down much in the way of tribal culture, so when grandchildren began arriving, which is where I come in, being one of The People was hardly ever mentioned. Even worse, although the thick black hair was still prevalent among the babies being born, I was not blessed with that genetic trait. Instead, I inherited the white, pale skin of my mother, and my grandmother, Katie’s blue eyes. And I was bald until after my first birthday, at which time little white baby curls came in like cotton tufts. And the bloodline had thinned so much that my generation did not have enough to ever be entered on tribal roles.


Chase the MoonWhen I grew old enough to know my heritage, I felt like I’d missed out on something important. Not only did I not qualify to be counted as “Indian”, I didn’t look like one either, but the older I grew, the more aware I became that my soul was one hundred percent pure in tune with The People. I identified with them. I thought the people with the warm brown skin, the black hair and dark eyes had the most beautiful of faces. I ran barefoot through the hot Oklahoma sand and played barefoot in the rain while the red earth squished between my toes, and at night I dreamed of leaving my body and flying anywhere I chose. I flew among the stars and flew low among the treetops. I walked the woods in my dreams and heard the animals’ voices. I can plan what I want to dream and when I go to sleep, I dream it. For years, I thought everyone could do that. And so that was my life. On the outside the little white girl by day, on the inside, the little Native girl by night.


The year I began first grade, we lived in a rent house in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma that was six long red dirt miles outside of a tiny little town, population about 500 people. The house was within walking distance to the South Canadian River. The half-mile path from our house to the road where I would catch the bus was barely wide enough for my daddy’s old black pickup. One side of the road was a heavily wooded hill that rose high above the path on the north, and on the south side was a pasture full of native grasses that grew higher than my head. The path seemed endless for a small girl going to meet a long yellow bus that would take her away from everything familiar, and so my old yellow dog, Laddie, walked it with me every morning and was waiting at the stop to walk me home every evening.


TallchiefSo in the fall of my first semester of first grade, when the leaves had just begun to turn and the morning air was chill enough that I could see my breath, and sometimes little wisps of fog still lingered knee-high above the ground, something happened that marked me as a child of The People. 


On that morning I am walking with my hand dug deep into the fur on old Laddie’s back, taking comfort from the warmth coming off of his body when I sense another presence. Almost at the same time, Laddie began to growl, a low deep grumble that never wavered. I caught a glimpse of movement up on the ridge and turned to see a wolf walking the ridge parallel to us, weaving in and out among the trees but keeping pace with Laddie and me down on the path. I saw it for the very large, very wild animal that it was, and yet for some reason, I was not scared. I just kept walking and made it to the bus stop, got on the bus and promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t there when I came home that evening, but when Laddie and I began our walk to the bus the next morning, it was on the ridge again and Laddie was growling and I was holding on to him and we were walking, walking, with the wolf keeping pace with our every step. Every morning through that entire season and up until the first snow, it was our uninvited companion.


Storm WarningI never mentioned it to my daddy. He was quite the hunter and I was afraid that he would shoot it. It wasn’t hurting me and if Laddie didn’t mind him being up there, then I didn’t either. Once the snow came, I never saw it again, and I never spoke of it until many years later and I was a young woman, almost grown. When I told the tale, an old Indian man who’d been sitting quietly throughout most of the visiting suddenly grabbed my arm and asked me if I knew what that meant? Never having been raised in the culture, I told him no. His dark eyes widened. I felt his gaze rake my body from head to toe and back again, and then he told me in a quiet, private tone that the wolf was my totem, and that I’d been marked for something special. My life was so ordinary, I couldn’t imagine, and I asked him what it would be. He shrugged, then said it was for me to discover, and that I just had to pay attention.


So the story stayed with me through my first marriage, during which time I survived two car wrecks that should have killed me. I remembered thinking, maybe I lived because I have not fulfilled my purpose. So I had my first child and then divorced. Later remarried and had my second child and I’m thinking, maybe it’s not me, but one of my children who has this special thing that they must do. And as they grew up, my second marriage grew worse, and I began searching my heart for something to do that would mentally take me out of my sadness.


WindwalkerNow remember, I said I always planned what I wanted to dream? Well, those dreams had become vivid daydreams as well, and one day after a particularly hard day, I pulled a typewriter out of a closet and began writing the story that was in my head.


All of a sudden my days were better. I had something to look forward to that was positive, something that took me ‘out of the place in which I lived’. My family thought I was silly. It made my husband mad because I had an interest in something that he couldn’t control. I wrote in cursive on yellow legal pads and then typed it at night. It took a year for me to finish, but I will never forget the satisfaction I felt at typing THE END.


I reread the story, realized how awful it was, because I didn’t know HOW to put on paper what I saw in my head, and stuck it under the bed. But the writing bug had bitten me hard, and I wrote another that also took another year to finish, and wasn’t any better. It, too, went under the bed and I let life and growing children overwhelm me again.


Sara's AngelIt wasn’t until 1985, when my sister and my dad died within two months of each other, that I re-evaluated my life. I didn’t want to be on my death bed sometime in the future wondering what would have happened if I’d just written another book. So I joined a writer’s group and figured out how to put on paper what I saw in my head, and after another year, I wrote the third book.


In the way of the People, I was a storyteller and just didn’t know it because the third book was the charm. The first place I sent it, bought it. That was 1991 and the book was called Sara’s Angel. It was a romance with a little bit of mystery/suspense and the hero in the book was Native American, because in my heart, all my heroes have pretty brown skin with black hair and dark eyes.


But it wasn’t until I received my first fan letter that I realized what I’d been chosen to do. The letter was from a woman who’s first language was obviously not English, and she wrote a line in that letter that I never forgot. She said, “For a little space of time, you show me a better world than the one that is mine.”


The DoveIt was my first step onto the path for which I was marked. I was doing what I was supposed to do…telling my stories… and when I could, showing Native American people in a positive and heroic light. More than half of my books have Native American characters, yet throughout the twenty-three years I’ve been published, I have fought a losing battle with traditional publishing houses to put real Native American models on the covers of the books with those characters. Every time I’d ask, I’d get another male model with long hair, but never one of the People.


And so it continued until self-publishing became possible. For years I’d been writing under two names – Sharon Sala, and my pen name, Dinah McCall and I wrote under both names until the year my fiancé died. His name was Bobby and he was from the Muscokee/Creek tribe. He was my childhood sweetheart and I’d lost touch with him until he came back into my life after a divorce. I had eight wonderful years with him before he died in our house, in my arms. I thought I would die with him. I wanted to, but my spirit wasn’t done here. I had stories yet to tell.


I was writing a McCall story when he died, and for some reason, after I finally finished that book, Dinah died with him. I never wrote under Dinah McCall book after The Survivors, which was dedicated to him, until my Bobby came to me one night years later in a dream. I woke up the next morning knowing I had another story to tell, and began writing the Windwalker trilogy under the Dinah McCall name.


The SurvivorsI knew I was going to self-publish because I was going to tell these stories about the People the right way – my way. It wasn’t just the fact that both hero and heroine in these stories were going to be Native Americans, but I had a dream I was going to make come true. For the first time in twenty-three years of writing, I was going to have real Native American people on the covers for the Windwalker trilogy, and one of them who became the female model was my own granddaughter, Logan Sala, who through her mother, is a member of the Muscokee tribe. Rick Mora, an actor/model from Hollywood who is Yaqui/Apache became the male model. The covers for Windwalker and The Dove are strikingly beautiful and I am as proud of those covers as I am the stories they represent. There is one more book in that trilogy called The Gathering, which will be out sometime next Spring and their beautiful faces will grace that cover, as well.


I have won many awards and received many accolades during my career, but none mean as much to me as being able to tell my stories my way, and see them published in the manner most befitting the heroes and heroines within those pages.


So twenty-three years and nearly one hundred books later, I am still the little white child with the Native heart, following a path marked by the wolf, who became her totem.


What a beautiful, amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, Sharon.

SAIHM: Some Obscure History on Native Americans

I think this is something we all know … but not really. As in if you really think about it, you’ll be like “oh, well, duh.” And then you’ll feel sad … because it’s horrible. What am I talking about? Slavery. I know, it’s ugly and horrible … but it’s important to remember. After all, it’s American Indian/Native American Heritage Month … and a big part of history – for the States, and I’d say for the world.

In South Carolina, and to a lesser extent in North Carolina, Virginia, and Louisiana, Indian slavery was a central means by which early colonists funded economic expansion.

Earlier in the article, it says this

The African “role” encompasses the transportation, exploitation, and suffering of many millions in New World slavery, while Indians are described in terms of their succumbing in large numbers to disease, with the survivors facing dispossession of their land. This paradigm—a basic one in the history of colonialism—omits a crucial aspect of the story: the indigenous peoples of the Americas were enslaved in large numbers. This exclusion distorts not only what happened to American Indians under colonialism, but also points to the need for a reassessment of the foundation and nature of European overseas expansion.

So yeah.

Many other Indians were moved hundreds or thousands of miles within the Americas. Sioux Indians from the Minnesota region could be found enslaved in Quebec, and Choctaws from Mississippi in New England. A longstanding line of transportation of Indian slaves led from modern-day Utah and Colorado south into Mexico.

Lastly, this.

The paradigm of “what happened” to American Indians under European colonialism must be revised. Instead of viewing victimization of Africans and Indians as two entirely separate processes, they should be compared and contrasted. This will shed more light on the consequences of colonialism in the Americas, and how racism became one of the dominant ideologies of the modern world. It is time to assess the impact of slave trading and slavery on American Indian peoples, slave and free.

All those quotes were taken from Indian Slavery in the Americas by Alan Gallay. Which of course I understand is just one article, but I think it’s really thought provoking. You can also read the “About” article but I found that one really basic. Or even the Wikipedia article which… you know. Mixed bag there.

And of course if you want more general knowledge, The History Channel appears to have a great page on Native American Cultures.

I wanted to write this post because, well, social justice is important to me, but also, I heard a blip on NPR this week, that really made me think. How something so huge and so important in history just … isn’t talked about. It matters. It matters as to how we think about our history, and it matters because there is so much going on with the various tribes that are still [“relatively intact”] today. I don’t want to discuss that now because I haven’t done enough research but … it’s important. And if you feel so inclined as to do more research or have other questions, I’d love to hear it and help with what I can.